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Democrats, McCain & North Korea

3:13 PM, Oct 11, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Many Americans probably view Sen. McCain's statement that the Clinton administration's 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea was a "failure" as an obvious point. McCain's comment came after Sen. Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats were all over the media touting the '94 agreement as a model for how to deal with the North Korean dictatorship. McCain's point is a simple one: if we are going to effectively deal with the North's nuclear weapons program, we have to acknowledge how we got to this point and not make the same mistakes again.

But senior Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Bill Richardson, Madeleine Albright, and John Kerry, etc. - won't admit the '94 deal was a mistake. Quite the contrary, as Bill Richardson argued last night on CNN: "The reality is, had we not had the agreed framework with North Korea on nuclear weapons, they would maybe have 50 nuclear weapons today. For eight years they didn't enrich uranium." Richardson is arguing as if the administration had no other policy options. But that isn't true. The Clinton administration chose the path of meeting the North's hostile behavior and violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with further concessions - a path McCain and others vigorously argued against at the time.

In May 1994, McCain catalogued all the North Korean threats and treaty violations, along with the US concessions, that led to the Agreed Framework -- an agreement advertised as freezing Pyongyang's nuclear program. It didn't. The North began a secret uranium enrichment program after 1995 and never gave up working on nuclear weapons. Democrats now argue that at least the deal put the fuel rods under the eye of international inspectors before they were kicked out in 2002 on Bush's watch. Of course, they fail to note that this happened just after the North http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/NK/index.html target=_blank>confirmed U.S. intelligence reports that it had a clandestine enrichment program - one that violated the NPT (they later withdrew from the treaty) and the Agreed Framework. In any event, the failure to demand the speedy removal of the rods from the North was a major strategic flaw in the '94 deal. Back then, McCain argued that leaving them in place would allow the dictatorship to kick the inspectors out and reprocess the rods at a time of its choosing. Here's what he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1994:

Using sticks such as their threatened expulsion of IAEA inspectors, North Korea has consistently intimidated Administration diplomacy. To divert the United States from punishing his violations of the NPT, Kim Il Sung has raised, then withdrawn his stick, masking his forbearance in the disguise of a carrot….

In fact, North Korea has offered no real concession. The fuel rods that it would use to make weapons-grade plutonium cannot be used until they are less radioactive. The reactor cannot be refueled until the rods have cooled. North Korea's nuclear program is, of physical necessity, frozen….

Although the Administration may attempt to obscure a failure, we will reach a moment when it is apparent to all. That will be when North Korea begins reprocessing the fuel now in cooling ponds into weapons-grade plutonium.

And here we are today. Despite the apparent nuclear test, the missile launches, the proliferation, the secret enrichment program, and all the other history going back over a decade, many Democrats still embrace the '94 deal and still argue for more carrots.